Close to 50 people from Queen’s University have been asked to watch for symptoms after possible exposure to coronavirus. The group attended a conference in Toronto with a Sudbury man in his 50’s who has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts, confirmed on Wednesday the first positive case of COVID-19 in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts.
According to Queen’s University’s Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19, there are no cases yet in the Kingston region. “All I can tell you is that we have no cases in Kingston that have been tested positive in the University community or community at large,” says Dr. David Walker.
Walker, a former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, is currently a professor of emergency medicine, family medicine, and policy studies at Queen’s. He will help with the school’s response to the evolving public health issue.
The Prospectors and Developers Association Conference (PDAC) was held March 2 to March 3. The event attracted 25,000 people from more than 130 countries — among those attendees were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier, Doug Ford. The prime minister has since confirmed he is in isolation after his wife Sophie presented with flu-like symptoms.
According to Walker, anyone having attended the conference should keep an eye on their health.
“All of those people who were at that conference, and there were many of them, have been told to monitor themselves for illness. If they become sick with a respiratory illness, shortness of breath, cough, fever, they should immediately isolate themselves,” Walker says.
At this point, classes at Queen’s University are still ongoing… but that could change as the number of cases continues to climb.
“If we get positive cases we will reconsider, and we have plans in place to implement if we do. It is really when there’s community spread that changes the rules,” Walker says.
Laurentian University in Sudbury recently announced that all of its classes will be moved online as a preventative measure. Students at Queen’s University say only time will tell what this could mean for their day-to-day routines.
Jameel Premji, who is studying biology, says he is doing what he can to prevent contracting the illness. “Honestly just basic hygiene, using soap and water and hand sanitizer whenever I can. There’s not much you can really truly do.”
“They’ve been keeping us very informed and up-to-date. They’ve been giving us a lot of resources like videos and play-by-play information, so in terms of what they’ve been doing it’s been pretty good,” says Torontonian Alexa Margorian.
Sydney Hughes, a student from Alberta, says she isn’t losing sleep over the issue. “Obviously you want to be precautionary but I don’t think its something I’m worried about yet. But I have been in talks with my family if something was to get cancelled. Right now we are just playing it by ear.”
Queen’s has also suspended all university-sponsored travel outside of Canada.
Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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